Friday, April 29, 2005

29 April 1975

Today is the 30th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, capital of the Republic of Vietnam, to the North Vietnamese. Despite almost 60,000 American deaths from the early 1960’s to 1972, and millions of South Vietnamese dead, the armed forces of the Republic of Vietnam were ultimately unable to maintain that country’s liberty and independence, particularly after the Democratic majority in the Congress of the United States cut off arms, ammunition and fuel to our beleaguered former allies.

The generals and soldiers of our sometime enemies, the People’s Army of Vietnam, have every right to be proud when they think of their army’s splendid spring campaign of 1975, that toppled South Vietnam in about 55 days. The end result was never seriously in doubt however, because the Soviet Union and China, unlike the United States, ensured their own Vietnamese allies had all the fuel and weapons they needed.

It’s hard to blame the Nixon administration, and its chief negotiator, Henry Kissinger, much, for the sham Paris Peace Accords of 1973, which abandoned South Vietnam to its enemies. Public opinion demanded a rapid American exit from that war, on almost any terms, and Nixon and Kissinger, given their hopeless bargaining position, probably extracted the best terms possible: i.e. a “decent interval” for the Americans to complete their withdrawal before the communist armies overran South Vietnam.

The “Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam” which Secretary of State William Rogers put his name to for the United States, neither ended the war nor restored the peace. Two more years of bitter fighting followed, before the final North Vietnamese offensive in the spring of 1975. During those two years, South Vietnamese soldiers and their Marine brothers often put the lie to the old canard that the ARVN couldn’t, and wouldn’t fight. But it’s hard to fight on when your planes have no gas, and your tanks no spare parts.

Cutting and running– er, withdrawing, from South Vietnam was politically inevitable. In retrospect, what seems completely inexcusable to me (besides, that is, the failure to insist on and receive a full accounting as to our PW’s and MIA’s) was the failure to provide – following American withdrawal – the South Vietnamese with the weapons and supplies they needed to defend themselves.

Besides the moral bankruptcy of leaving people in the lurch who had openly and publicly supported the United States, the cutoff of aid to South Vietnam dishonoured our dead, and ensured their sacrifices were in vain. If America thought it necessary to abandon South Vietnam to its enemies, then why was this not done in 1966, prior to 60,000 American dead, not to mention millions of Vietnamese ?

In particular, the Democratic leadership in the United States Congress from 1970-1975 bears a heavy responsibility for the final collapse of South Vietnam and its consequences – the abandonment of thousands of persons, compromised in the eyes of the Communists, for their pro-US positions, who should have been evacuated in the spring of 1975; for the minimum of 65,000 executions of pro US Republic of Vietnam officials, and others who irritated the new communist overlords; the “reeducation camps” and other prisons reserved for millions more; the pathetic “boat people” and other refugees; and the prison camp country that the communists made of South Vietnam after the collapse, that is only now beginning to moderate, a little.
The Congressional Left and its allies in the media did everything possible to block the Nixon and Ford administration’s efforts to get even a little help to the South Vietnamese, and to their equally embattled Cambodian allies. The sick part was that so many of these people were and are proud of what they did, one of many reasons I’ve never been able to stomach the Left.

Yes, it was all so very long ago now, and I guess that’s supposed to help a little bit. I wasn’t there, and had, so to speak, no oar personally in the water on that one, but I cannot even imagine how angry it would all still make me if I were a vet, or a refugee, or if I had lost someone.

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